Stakeholders support November 7 voting date

Voters3Political actors and stakeholders on Monday conveyed varied opinions on the proposed date for this year’s general election, questioning the Electoral Commission’s (EC) readiness to conduct the polls.

Though majority of them agreed to the new set day of November 7, they were worried that the EC does not have enough time and might to get the necessary funding to undertake the processes, leading to the  elections, considering its nearness.

The views were made at the public forum organised by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, seeking to solicit public views on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2016 that is before the House for consideration and amendment.

The House is expected to make amendments to certain portions of the Bill to change the elections date from December 7 toNovember 7 of every election year.

Only four out of the 23 registered parties who were invited by the committee took part in the forum.

They included the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the National Democratic Party (NDP).

Representatives from the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), Muslims Union of Ghana represented by the office of the Chief Imam and the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) as well as individuals also aired their views on the new constitutional amendment bill.

Mr Peter Mac-Manu, the NPP’s campaign manager, told the Committee that though the party agreed with the amendments and the change of date, the Party had doubts as to whether the EC is ready to conduct the a free, fair and transparent election on November 7.

He said the EC has not been consistent in terms of dates for its programmes for the conduct of the elections, saying the NPP is concerned with the maturity date of the Constitutional Instrument that would guide the elections.

The party also expressed unhappiness at the limited time frame that the EC has to go through all the procurement processes for elections materials and the fluid application of the election time-table so that it would not result in confusion in the elections.

Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, the NDC’s General Secretary said although the party is in support of the Constitutional Amendment, there should however be a consensus between all actors to ensure that there is harmony in the process leading to the elections.

“Every decision should be taken quickly so that those who would partake in the election would know when elections would be held…the decision should be definite, known by everybody and must be based on consensus.

The NDC General Secretary said the party had programmed all its activities towards the new date of November 7 and so it is essential that the process of changing the date is hastened to allow for a smooth for the smooth conduct of the elections and ample preparation by stakeholders.

On his part, Nii Alottey Brew-Hammond, Chairman of the PPP said his party supports the new date for the elections.

“We as a party have already programmed our activities to coincide with November 7 and any change could affect us,” he said.

Mrs Peace Aryee, National Women’s Leader of NDP expressed the party’s reservations about the change of date, insisting that the situation could create problems for the country.

She also raised issues with the modalities the EC is adopting to sanitise the voter register, and expressed worry that the EC’s “half-hearted” attitude in cleaning the voter register would not enable a level playing field for free, fair and transparent elections.

Dr Franklin Oduro, a representative of the CDD, said though the amendment for the new date could be approved, the new date should be applied in the 2020 general election because of the closeness of the election and the intricacies of elections processes.

Rev Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, representative of the CCG said the body is in support of the new date.

He however expressed the need for the EC to carry out sustained education on the change of date to acquaint as many voters with that decision to ensure increased voter turnout on election day.

The President of the GJA, Dr Roland Affail Monney noted that though the media is prepared to cover the elections on whichever date is set, those who would be reporting on the elections must be given full protection by the State to enable them transmit exactly what transpires on the ground.

Some members of the public held the view the new date, November 7, which falls on Monday, would affect voter turnout and that the polls should be held on another day other than Monday.

Some also expressed the fear that the EC may not have adequate funds to carry out its mandate. But the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, gave the assurance that government had committed adequate resources for the smooth conduct of the general election.

“Government has committed enough resources to ensure that the elections run smoothly and is ready to contribute more when the need arises,” he said.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2016, which is currently before Parliament, amends Article 112(4) of the Constitution to make provision for Parliamentary elections to be held well ahead of the expiration of the term of every Parliament to guarantee seamless transition.

Currently, December 7, is set as the date for the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Ghana, while the swearing-in of a new or continuing government and legislators takes place on January 7 of the of the ensuing year.

This one month period for the transition of one government to another has over the years proved inadequate a time for a smooth handover, particularly, in instances where there is a run-off election as was the case in the 2001 and 2008 elections.

Source: GNA

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